NFINL No 3I: Impressions of Landscape of the Year, Claudia Lenius,
Updated: Sep 6
Personal impressions of Claudia Lenius, Director of NaturFreunde Frankfurt/Main
Janjanbureh (The Gambia), 19 January 2020
It is Sunday lunchtime and hot for European sensibilities. We sit on the Governor's Square under a tent roof and wait for the beginning of the festive event for the "Landscape of the Year 2018-2020", which is also the kick-off for the anniversary year "125 Years Naturefriends Movement".
Naturefriends from France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria have come to Senegambia. Of course, our African Naturefriends, who have promoted the activities for the "Landscape of the Year" on site, are also gathered at the festival site. First and foremost, Mamadou Mbodji, NFI Vice-President, President of the African Network of Naturefriends and Deputy Secretary General of the Senegalese Naturefriends organisation ASAN. Also present were the Naturefriends group from Koungheul (Senegal) and the new NFI member "JUST ACT" from Janjanbureh, represented by Omar Jammeh and Isatou Foon, as well as the students of the local school.
With a measured step the governor of the central region of The Gambia comes to the fairground and the ceremony begins! After a short welcome by the chief of protocol we hear the Gambian national anthem.
First, Omar Jammeh from "Just Act" gives a speech in which he addresses the great importance of the "Landscape of the Year" for the region. He refers in particular to the successful exchange of young people from Kongheul (Senegal) and Janjanbureh (The Gambia), who have each travelled to the neighbouring country for a long weekend. Although the two cities are only about 40 km apart, it was the first visit to the neighbouring country for all young people and thus an important contribution to international understanding. This exchange was made possible by the support of the Naturefriends Offenbach (Germany), who had collected donations for it. Furthermore, Omar points out that in the afternoon there will be an introduction to the construction of simple, energy-saving cooking stoves made of clay. Fatim Saoulomou, a Guinean Naturefriend, will lead the workshop for 20 local women. (See also article below.)
The event has been combined with the old, cultural Gambian tradition of the Kankurang Festival - thus dances from this tradition ensure a lively, original African tradition. A Kankurang is a medicine man or forest spirit who used to lead the boys intended for circumcision into the forest and protected them during the ritual time until they returned to their village. This ceremony is accompanied by masked and disguised dancers with wild rhythms, accompanied by monotonous drums and whistles. The audience is invited to dance along. Several times the speeches are interrupted by such Kankurang performances.
Afterwards the French Naturefriend Arlette Orry delivers a greeting message from the French Naturefriends President Christine Schmitt and a book present for the students of the local school.
Mamadou Mbodji emphasizes that the celebration of the "Landscape of the Year" represents another milestone in the cooperation between the two countries.
After honouring Ingeborg Pint, the long-time organiser of the Naturefriends trips to Africa, NFI Vice President Petra Müller goes briefly into the origins of the Naturefriends movement. She sees the future of the movement - with reference to the catastrophes of the two World Wars and the ban on Austrian and German Naturefriends during the Nazi era - in the commitment to peace, in international understanding and in the united fight for global climate justice, in addition to the traditional Naturefriends themes of sport, education and culture.
The colourful and noisy event ends with music, dance and a meal together. A successful prelude to the festive year of the 125th anniversary of the Naturefriends movement and a moving tribute to the commitment of the Naturefriends on the African continent!